New York Mets: 10 Bold Predictions for the Post-Settlement Mets Front Office
With Mets principal owner Fred Wilpon and team president Saul Katz's trial having at ended in an out-of-court settlement before the trial itself even began, Wilpon, Katz and the Mets can now focus completely on making good decisions within the franchise itself.
Ever since Bernie Madoff—the man behind the Ponzi Scheme that he ran, and that Wilpon and Katz were previously accused of knowing about—had been found guilty for his fraud, Wilpon and Katz were widely viewed by the public as potential insiders on Madoff's operation. The speculation may still be present, but the legal case is now closed, and it's very good for the Mets because it will be one less distraction to worry about.
Now that the Mets finally have a little more money to work with, they can focus on doing more things to improve the state of the team. The Mets have already paid back their $40 million loan from Bank of America and $25 million from Major League Baseball. Now that the 2012 regular season is about to begin, there will not be many roster moves that the front office can make at the moment, but this should definitely improve the Mets' chances at succeeding in future offseasons, especially in regards to signing free agents.
Here are 10 predictions of what the Mets will do going forward, now that the court case has ended.
1. David Wright Will Get Re-Signed for at Least 3 Years
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Being that Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes, two of the Mets' previous cornerstone players, now play for the Cardinals and Marlins, respectively, David Wright is the Mets' lone cornerstone player left and is still the face of the team.
Due to all this, it is very important that Wright remains a Met because if he gets traded by this August, a good chunk of the Mets' fan base may abandon the team because it could give them one less reason to follow and cheer for them. The Mets are not predicted to play particularly well this season, so a good number of Mets fans might come to Citi Field just to see Wright play.
Wright is currently on the last year of a six-year $55 million contract, but he does have a $16 million club option for 2013, which the Mets would almost certainly exercise. However, if he does get traded, he can decline the option himself and become a free agent in the winter. Regardless, Wright is the face of the franchise and he is the veteran leader that this young Mets team really needs to have for years to come. The Mets have one of the youngest teams in baseball, and with Wright as the leader, things will only get better for them.
Furthermore, Wright has always loved playing for the Mets and even grew up as a Mets fan because the Mets' AAA affiliate was in Norfolk, Virginia for many years. Thus, this move needs to be made for the sake of Wright's contributions over the years and to satisfy the fans. A three-to-five year contract that's worth around $15-20 million a season should be reasonable for Wright, as far as what he has done for the Mets since he first came up in 2004.
2. Ike Davis Will Be a Cornerstone for the Mets for Years to Come
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Like Wright, Ike Davis is someone that the Mets should really build their team around. Due to the fact that he is entering his third season and second full season with the team, no one will have to worry about contract talks just yet. But down the road, once the talks themselves come up, the Mets should really not consider moving him at any cost.
Despite missing most of the 2011 season due to an ankle injury, Davis is primed to have many big seasons for the Mets. He could become one of the more premier sluggers in the league with his 30-40 home runs per season potential. He is also an excellent defender that could follow in Keith Hernandez's footsteps as being a first baseman that wins many Gold Glove Awards.
With this being said, Davis is all but set to become one of the Mets' greatest power hitters ever and there is every reason to believe that he will break the franchise's single season home run record, which is held by Todd Hundley and Carlos Beltran at 41 home runs. If he lives up to his expectations, he could definitely help lead the Mets eventually to at least one championship.
3. Lucas Duda Could Get Traded...But Only at the Right Price
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Mets right fielder Lucas Duda will be expected to be a significant offensive contributor this season. His explosive power should help the Mets hopefully score a few more runs each game. It is his defense, though, that could be more troubling for the team, but regardless, the Mets will hopefully get a great season out of Duda.
Duda is a natural first baseman, and due to the presence of Ike Davis, there is no way that Duda will play first base every day—unless of course Davis gets hurt again. If Duda does not play well in right field and has a decent offensive season at best, the Mets should consider trading him for either prospects or a more natural outfielder, but only if that situation itself arises.
The likelihood of this happening is not the greatest by any means, but it is definitely something to take note of.
4. Jason Bay Will Get Released If He Does Not Have a Successful 2012 Season
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The four years and $66 million have so far turned out to be a complete waste for Mets left fielder Jason Bay. He has quickly become one of the biggest disappointments in team history. He was expected to provide over 30 home runs and over 100 RBI every season, but instead, he has looked lost at the plate and has rarely showed the same power that got him his contract in the first place.
Now that the Mets have some money to work with, they should release Bay if he fails to produce once again. His spot in the lineup and the field could eventually be of better use to a younger player that could be a future fixture in the Mets' outfield. Furthermore, the Mets have released players and eaten contracts before. Look no further than the releases of both Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez prior to the beginning of the 2011 season.
Then again, Bay could also bounce back and have a stronger season, especially because the Citi Field fences have now been moved in. It will be interesting to see how this change will affect Bay's upcoming season. Hopefully, he will take advantage of it.
5. Either Daniel Murphy or Justin Turner Will Get Traded at the Deadline
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While the Mets have not really had a dependable second baseman since the days of Edgardo Alfonzo, they now have two capable players that could play the position in Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner.
Both Murphy and Turner played the position for most of the season in 2011, but of course only one can play every day. The Mets are not likely to go with a strict platoon, being that Murphy, the better hitter of the two has proved that he can hit left-handed pitchers well enough to play every day.
Turner, though, would be the better defensive option, being that he has spent more time in his career at second base than the rather inexperienced Murphy, who is a natural third baseman.
Murphy and Turner both need to play every day, whether it be with the Mets or another team. Thus, if the Mets are able to find a good deal, they should definitely consider shopping Turner, or even Murphy if he really struggles defensively.
Murphy ideally would be a great fit as an American League first baseman, third baseman or designated hitter. He is a pure hitter and the DH option would work very well for Murphy, and if an opening at first and/or third base were to appear, it would definitely help him reach his full potential.
Turner on the other hand just needs an everyday job as either a second or third baseman. If either opportunity arises with the Mets or elsewhere, it would definitely help Turner improve upon his career.
All in all, both Murphy and Turner should not be on the same roster, especially with David Wright a fixture at third base and Ike Davis likewise at first base. Neither of the two would provide the greatest defensive skills to be an everyday shortstop, so one will start at second base and the other will have to be on the bench. If the right deal can be found, either of the two players should be shopped for prospects or other needs to help improve the Mets.
6. The Mets Will Sign a Free Agent Shortstop Next Winter
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The absence of Jose Reyes has created a noticeable hole at shortstop. It is certainly one that someone like Ruben Tejada will not be able to fill, even with a few years of everyday playing time. Tejada is basically a replica of what Rey Ordonez once was for the Mets: a shortstop that can play very well defensively, but cannot hit well if his life depended on it. Backup Ronny Cedeno will not be a solution there as well.
With prospect Wilmer Flores at least two or three years away from being ready for the big leagues, the Mets could try to make a big splash next winter by luring in one of the top available shortstop free agents. The two shortstops that will stand out are going to be Erick Aybar of the Angels and Stephen Drew of the Diamondbacks.
Aybar is a similar type of player compared to Reyes. He plays well defensively at shortstop, has great speed and is good at hitting doubles and triples to the gaps. He would not be a typical leadoff hitter compared to Reyes, but would be a great No. 2 hitter at the very least. He will likely look for a three or four year contract. He would be a great fit at Citi Field, so look for the Mets to take a serious look at him in the winter.
Drew on the other hand is a similar hitter to Aybar. Though he doesn't have the same running speed, he does have a little more power. He is another player that would get on base a lot and hit a good number of doubles. He might try to get a five year contract, but if the annual rate is at the right price for the Mets, there is no reason why they should not at least look into signing him.
With the way the Mets' current plans at shortstops are looking, they could definitely use an upgrade at the position. Erick Aybar or Stephen Drew could solve this problem going forward, but the development of Wilmer Flores will have a big impact on what ends up happening.
7. If the Mets Do Not Sign a Shortstop, They Will Sign an Outfielder Instead
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In the event that either Erick Aybar or Stephen Drew do not become Mets by 2013, look for the Mets to go after a new outfielder instead.
Jason Bay is signed through 2013, and unless he gets traded, Lucas Duda will be the Mets' right fielder going forward. Center field may look like the real question going forward, but prospect Kirk Nieuwenhuis is likely to become the Mets' Opening Day center fielder by 2013. However, none of these spots are guaranteed by any means and any of them could always use an upgrade.
In the upcoming free agent class, the big name of course will be Josh Hamilton. However, the Rangers will likely re-sign him unless he keeps getting injured and/or relapses back into his alcoholism. Furthermore, he will probably ask for a lot more than what the Mets would be willing to give him. With that being said, the two best possible outfield fits for the Mets within this group are Michael Bourn and Andre Ethier.
Bourn would re-establish himself as the same dominant leadoff hitter that Jose Reyes once was. He can steal over 50 bases a year and has a pretty good on-base percentage as well. Furthermore, he's a center fielder and he'd bring stability back into the position. Ethier is a right fielder and is more of a solid all-around hitter that provides really good power as well. The Mets already have two left-handed sluggers in Duda and Ike Davis, so the need for a third left-handed slugger may not be so essential. Nonetheless, both Bourn and Ethier should be given a lot of consideration.
The way the Mets' outfield could shape up in the future has many different possibilities. Nonetheless, hopefully the decisions that end up being made will help the Mets succeed and win more.
8. Johan Santana Will Get Traded This Season
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The Mets' signing of Johan Santana was supposed to be what the Mets were missing from being able to win a World Series. However, since Santana has been a Met, the Mets barely missed the playoffs in 2008 and did not come even close to contending from 2009-2011. This season may continue the current trend as well. Furthermore, Santana has not been particularly healthy since 2008 and that has certainly hurt the Mets in the long run.
Santana needs to have a bounce back year to reestablish himself as the Mets' ace. If he gets off to a great start and the Mets don't have a shot to contend by the All-Star break, the Mets should definitely look to trade Santana for more prospects. The fact of the matter is that a new wave of pitchers will be up for the Mets by 2013. It does not even look like Santana will have a guaranteed spot in the rotation with all the young talent the Mets will have by then. Thus, it would make perfect sense for him to get traded at the deadline.
The only thing stopping Santana from getting traded, besides the injuries, is his expensive contract. Other teams almost certainly would not want to take up his remaining contract, so there's a very good chance that the Mets would have to eat most, if not all of the contract in order to trade Santana away. The front office would have to think a lot about this before making such a move. Nevertheless, Santana has pretty much run his course with the Mets, and in the future the rotation is simply going to be too crowded for him to even stick around.
9. Mike Pelfrey Will Not Be a Met in 2013
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After winning 15 games in 2010, the Mets expected Mike Pelfrey to be their ace, with Johan Santana not being available for what turned out to be the entire season. However, in 2011, Pelfrey ended up relapsing into the inconsistent and unpredictable pitcher he was in 2009. He pitched some great games at times, but in his other starts, he simply looked lost and could not get outs.
Pelfrey has always been a work-in-progress for the Mets, but with four full seasons under his belt, it's time for Pelfrey to really have a few consecutive solid seasons in order to re-establish himself as one of baseball's better young pitchers.
Due to his inconsistency in 2011, Pelfrey will likely be the Mets' fifth starter this year. He will really need to pitch well in order to earn himself a spot in what will be a crowded rotation in 2013. As it looks right now, Pelfrey seems to be the odd man out. With Jeruys Familia, Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler all likely to ready for a full big league season by 2013, they would take three spots by default, while Jon Niese and Dillon Gee would likely round out the rotation. This would mean that Pelfrey would have to become a long reliever, which would not be the best role for him, or he would have to catch onto another team. The latter would sound like the more likely option.
Like Santana, if Pelfrey happens to pitch well this year, the Mets should try to shop him for some offensive prospects, especially since their pitching prospects are really starting to come together. Being that Niese is almost certainly going to be the only left-handed pitcher in the Mets' rotation in the future, Pelfrey will basically have to duke it out with Gee in order to see who would be the better fifth starter going forward.
All in all, Pelfrey should get traded at some point this year. Whether it happens during the trade deadline, next winter, or not at all is of course yet to be determined, but hopefully, the Mets front office will be able to handle this well.
10. The Mets Will Pay off the Bobby Bonilla Money Within 1 to 2 Years
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Finally, now that Fred Wilpon has paid back Bank of America and Major League Baseball $40 million and $25 million, respectively, he could also take care of another notable loan that would go to former Met Bobby Bonilla.
During Bonilla's second stint with the Mets, he played poorly in 1999 and was released prior to the 2000 season, despite the Mets owing him $5.9 million. The Mets, however, decided to defer the payment. Last year, the Mets began paying Bonilla $1.2 million, which will be the annual amount he will receive through 2035. It sounds completely insane, but that's ultimately what Wilpon and then-general manager Steve Phillips decided to do.
Now that the Mets have some more money available, wouldn't now be a great time to pay off Bonilla just to get it out of the way? It would not necessarily be a great thing to do, but it's just another possibility that the Mets should consider. The Mets have been paying back loans recently, so it would make sense to pay back every loan they have, now that they have the time and flexibility to work with.
No matter when his checks come though, Bobby Bonilla will still be one Met that fans wish they never knew.